X-Force is a fictional Marvel Comics superhero team, one of many spin-offs of the popular X-Men franchise. Conceived by writer/illustrator Rob Liefeld, it formed in The New Mutants #100 (April 1991) and was shortly after featured in its own eponymous series.
The group was a more militarized incarnation of the 1980s New Mutants. Disassociated from their parent group and led by the gun-toting mutant Cable, X-Force was generally more militant and aggressive than the X-Men.
Although sometimes accused of emphasizing flashy art and big muscles and guns over character development, X-Force was tremendously successful in the early 1990s. Its popularity cooled after Liefeld left. Marvel implemented several reforms from 1995 until 2001, with varying success. Eventually low sales prompted Marvel to relaunch the title with a new cast: for a group of self-interested young mutants gathered together by a corporation to become media stars. That team shared only a name with the original and was eventually renamed X-Statix in 2002, a name by which it is better known to fans.
After X-Statix was cancelled, Marvel reunited X-Force for a six-issue 2004 miniseries plotted and drawn by Liefeld.
In 2007-2008, during the Messiah Complex crossover, a new version of X-Force was formed that had Wolverine leading a more militaristic black ops branch of the X-Men, forming the basis for a new X-Force series starting February 2008 by writers Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, plus Clayton Crain as the artist.
X-Force was concocted by illustrator Rob Liefeld, who started penciling The New Mutants in 1989. The (at the time) immense popularity of Liefeld’s visuals allowed him to take over creative control of the book, introducing Cable and several other hard-edged characters in 1990 and 1991. With help from writer Fabian Nicieza, who provided the dialogue for Liefeld’s plots, Liefeld transformed The New Mutants into X-Force in 1991. The line-up of the early team included:
- Boom Boom, previous member of the New Mutants and a rebellious teenager who could produce “Time bombs”
- Cable, originally a mysterious gun-toting anti-hero mutant, later revealed to possess telepathy and telekinesis, although he continued to rely on firearms
- Cannonball, a Kentuckian and prior member of the New Mutants who flew at jet speeds and projected a force field around himself when flying. Cannonball was team leader under Cable
- Domino, a world-class mercenary who possessed “luck powers,” allowing probability to turn in her favor and who was Cable’s lover. Later, it turned out that this woman was in fact the shapeshifter Copycat who had taken the place of Domino. The real Domino was still just a friend of Cable and had been imprisoned by Copycat's employers. The real Domino joined X-Force some time after her impostor was exposed
- Feral, a cat-like mutant with claws, fur, and enhanced senses
- Shatterstar, a sword wielding warrior from Mojo World who possessed superb fighting skills and limited energy-projection abilities
- Warpath, an Apache who, like his brother, the short-lived X-Man Thunderbird, possessed super strength and speed
Following a battle with her uncle Black Tom Cassidy and the Juggernaut in issue #3, X-Force would be joined by:
- Siryn, the daughter of the Irish X-Man Banshee who inherited her father’s “sonic scream” and ability to fly
Later, in issue #15, two former New Mutants who'd left before the teams evolution into X-Force returned:
- Rictor, a Mexican who produced powerful shockwaves
- Sunspot, former New Mutant and citizen of Brazil who absorbed and rechanneled solar energy
The main opponents of X-Force during its first year were the terrorist Mutant Liberation Front, led by Stryfe, a masked mutant with a mysterious link to Cable. Early issues also featured the wise-cracking mercenary Deadpool, the immortal Externals, and a new version of The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the X-Men’s oldest enemy group.
Propelled by the wildly popular and bombastic art of Liefeld, X-Force became one of Marvel’s best-selling comic books immediately after its debut. The series rivaled The Amazing Spider-Man and Uncanny X-Men in popularity, particularly with the adolescent demographic. Toy Biz responded by introducing an X-Force action figure line, along with its X-Men line, a rarity for a comic book property not adapted into a television program or film.
Many comic book fans were critical of the series initially, though, complaining that it relied on big guns, big muscles and big explosions rather than plot, a criticism that would be made of later Liefeld comic books as well. Writer Mark Waid and painter Alex Ross parodied X-Force and other anti-hero groups from the early 1990s in the 1996 DC Comics miniseries Kingdom Come, which portrayed a future where a generation of violent anti-heroes had replaced the familiar DC characters. Their leader Magog bore an intentional resemblance to Shatterstar and Cable.
Liefeld’s tenure on X-Force did not last long; he illustrated the series only through issue #9 and stopped providing its plot after #12. Liefeld became increasingly frustrated that he did not own the characters he created and that his art was being used on a variety of merchandise while he received little royalties. Along with six other popular Marvel artists, Liefeld left the company to form Image Comics in 1992. Incidentally, fan and critical reaction was much more favorable to the series during the tenures of the creators who followed Liefeld.
Mid-1990s: Nicieza and Loeb
X-Force continued with Nicieza taking full writing control and Greg Capullo illustrating. Nicieza, who also wrote X-Men, helped plot the X-Cutioner's Song storyline that overlapped into most X-Books in the fall of 1992. In that story, Stryfe frames Cable for an assassination attempt on the X-Men’s founder Professor X, leading to a clash between the X-Men and X-Force. The plot significance granted to Cable by X-Cutioner’s Song brought the character new popularity (despite apparently dying at the story's end, in X-Force #18) and his own solo series was launched in 1993.
After X-Cutioner’s Song, X-Force continued under Nicieza and Capullo (eventually followed by penciller Tony Daniel). Having temporarily lost their leader, the teenage mutants attempted to recover the remaining pieces of Cable's life while attempting to develop an identity of their own. Cable's reappearance in issue #25 complicated matters, since Cannonball had settled into the leadership role, but the team gradually developed into a dysfunctional family, and the title regularly combined soap opera plot threads (such as romance and Siryn's alcoholism) with violent action. As with Cable in 1992, 1993 and 1994 saw Nicieza flesh out previously unknown elements of each character's history, including Siryn's family in Ireland (#31), Rictor's in Mexico (#34), and Cannonball's in Kentucky (#37), as well as the mysterious origins of Shatterstar (#29-30). This period also saw Nicieza reintroduce characters from the group's New Mutants days, such as Rusty and Skids (#24), Dani Moonstar (#27, 43, 1994 Annual), and Cypher and Wolfsbane (#38). A long-simmering plot about Reignfire and the disappearance of Sunspot came to a climax just as the book went on hiatus for the Age of Apocalypse crossover event in 1995.
Due to falling sales, X-Force emerged from Age of Apocalypse with a new creative team of writer Jeph Loeb and illustrator Adam Pollina, who significantly revised the team (issue #43). Loeb brought back elements from The New Mutants, including new team uniforms, moving in with the X-Men at the X-Mansion, and an emphasis on character-driven stories with fewer fight scenes. Rictor quit the team and Cannonball "graduated" into the X-Men. Caliban, a super-strong albino mutant who possessed the mind of a child, joined the team. Loeb's stories included revelations about Shatterstar’s origin and the transformation of Boomer (formerly Boom Boom) into the more aggressive Meltdown. Fans' responses were generally positive.
In 1997, under writer John Francis Moore, X-Force broke away from Cable and the X-Men. Moore portrayed X-Force as carefree walkers exploring the open road. The roster of that incarnation was Meltdown, Siryn, Sunspot, Warpath, and Danielle Moonstar, a former New Mutant who could create apparitions of her opponent’s deepest fears. This was one of most acclaimed eras of the series, with warm reaction from fans and critics alike.
In late 1998, Moore and new artist Jim Cheung established X-Force’s headquarters in San Francisco, returned Cannonball and later Domino to the team, and added Bedlam, a mutant who could disrupt electronic equipment, but towards the end of this run, sales began to fall drastically.
In 2000, writer Warren Ellis, who was known for his dark, cynical style, was hired to revamp three X-Books, including X-Force, in what was known as Counter-X. His stint on X-Force, co-written by Ian Edginton and illustrated by Whilce Portacio saw Bedlam, Cannonball, Meltdown, and Warpath under the leadership of Pete Wisdom, a British mutant, former intelligence operative and member of Excalibur, who could shoot burning blades of energy from his fingers. Sales remained about the same despite the changes in creators.
Cancellation and replacement
In early 2001, Marvel's new editor-in-chief Joe Quesada canceled many X-Books, arguing that so many titles featuring closely-related groups of mutant superheroes was redundant. X-Force was not canceled, but completely re-imagined with an entirely different group of mutants using the X-Force name. In X-Force #115, Bedlam, Cannonball, Meltdown, and Warpath all appeared to die in an explosion, though all have subsequently returned. The next issue, #116, saw the introduction of writer Peter Milligan and artist Mike Allred's new, sardonically-toned X-Force, starring a group of colorfully dressed and emotionally immature young mutants put together and marketed to be media superstars. This team, and the series along with it, was retitled X-Statix in late 2002, following X-Force #129, the series' final issue. At this time, Cable was changed to Soldier X and Deadpool was changed to Agent X, along with X-Force being renamed to X-Statix.
For more details on this version of X-Force, see X-Statix.
Although all members of the final version of the first X-Force were apparently killed in an explosion, it was later revealed that they survived but disbanded.
In 2001, New X-Men writer Grant Morrison introduced X-Corporation, a global mutant rescue mission. Since then, many former members of X-Force have been seen in various X-Books as X-Corp operatives: Sunspot in Los Angeles, Domino and Risque in Hong Kong, Cannonball, Rictor and Siryn in Paris, and Feral and Warpath in Mumbai. More recently, Cannonball has been an X-Men member and Domino joined the new Six Pack in Cable & Deadpool.
In 2004, Marvel released a new six-issue X-Force mini-series, once again plotted and illustrated by Liefeld, with dialogue by Nicieza, that gathered many of the characters featured in the first X-Force, to critical panning yet decent sales. Some controversy arose from Liefeld's insertion of over ten pages from previous unpublished comic books (Wolverine and Cable: First Contact) with word balloons edited to make them fit the X-Force storyline . It was subsequently prequelled with a 4-issue X-Force: Shatterstar miniseries.
As of late 2007, Cannonball, Caliban and Warpath are members of separate teams of X-Men; Caliban recently sacrificed himself to save Warpath. Rictor and Siryn have joined X-Factor Investigations, and Boom-Boom/Meltdown is in the superhero comedy series Nextwave. Not all members have moved on to other teams; Feral and Moonstar are no longer mutants, having lost their powers due to the events of "M-Day". Feral is seen later repowered in Wolverine #54 and apparently killed by a Weapon X-influenced Sabretooth. Moonstar is now an instructor for The Initiative at Camp Hammond. Shatterstar and Domino recently appeared in Civil War (X-Men) when they attempted to free The 198, operating as X-Force.
Currently in the Messiah Complex storyline, specifically Uncanny X-Men #493, Cyclops orders Wolverine to form X-Force and hunt down Cable. Wolverine selects the X-Men's best trackers, Warpath, Caliban, Hepzibah, Wolfsbane, Wolverine, and X-23.
2008 ongoing series
Marvel Comics revealed at the Baltimore Comic-Con on September 10 2007 that a new X-Force ongoing series will be launched in the aftermath of the Messiah Complex crossover in February 2008, written by Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost and drawn by Clayton Crain. Concept art for the book indicates that the lineup will include Warpath, Wolfsbane, Wolverine, and X-23. The Marvel.com comic store describes the first issue as "There are lines that the X-Men have sworn never to cross. But after the shocking events of “Messiah Complex,” Cyclops realizes that some enemies need to be dealt with permanently… and the X-Men can never know about it". The enemies in question are the Purifiers, their leader, Matthew Risman, the reassembled Bastion, as well as a team of prominent antimutants composed by Donald Pierce, the Leper Queen and the resurrected Graydon Creed, Bolivar Trask, Stephen Lang and Cameron Hodge. It was also suggested in an issue of Wizard that Tony Stark aka Iron Man might become a target by forcing mutants to register with the Initiative.
- X-Force vol. 1, #1-129 (August 1991 - August 2002, Marvel Comics)
- Counter X Volume 1: X-Force (July 2008) (TPB; reprints #102-109)
- X-Force: New Beginnings (November 2001) (TPB; reprints #116-120)
- X-Force: The Final Chapter (December 2002) (TPB; reprints #121-129)
- X-Force Annual #1-3, 1995-1999 (March 1992 - 1999, Marvel Comics)
- X-Force vol. 2, #1-6 (October 2004 - March 2005, Marvel Comics)
- X-Force & Cable: The Legend Returns (March 2005) (TPB; reprints vol.2 #1-6)
- X-Force vol. 3, #1+ (February 2008 - present, Marvel Comics)
The original X-Force
Before the team best known as X-Force debuted, Marvel introduced an unrelated, little-known group also called X-Force. It was a short-lived group that was designed to replace Freedom Force. The members were not mutants, but received their powers artificially and were named after the X-Men. This group was organized by a government agency known as M Branch and only appeared in the pages of Cloak and Dagger #9-10 (1990).